United States legend Landon Donovan has joined Club Leon in a surprise return from retirement, the Liga MX team announced late Friday.
The 35-year-old already has returned from retirement once, playing nine matches for the LA Galaxy in 2016, and announced his intention to do the same in a Twitter exchange with Leon president Jesus Martinez.
"I loved the city, it's the best fans. Club Leon is a historic & winning team," Donovan tweeted. "I don't believe in walls. I want to go to Mexico, wear green & win trophies with Leon. We'll see each other very soon!"
Presidente: me encantó la Ciudad. Es la mejor afición. @clubleonfc es un equipo histórico y ganador. No creo en los muros, quiero ir a México, vestirme de verde y ganar trofeos con León. Nos vemos muy pronto! https://t.co/Xqm4jX2hW7— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) January 13, 2018
Martinez sent his reply: "I knew it. You always wanted (to wear) green. Welcome to 'La Fiera!' You're now a Club Leon player."
Rumors about Donovan signing with the Guanajuato club begin flying Wednesday, with Fox Deportes first reporting his return from retirement to play with La Fiera. Leon announced Wednesday the club had signed forward Giles Barnes, a Jamaica international who is represented by the same agency as Donovan.
The conversation was set off by the club's official account asking Martinez if the Donovan move had happened yet and the president saying he'd ask the player. Martinez then tweeted at the former U.S. international, "Hey Landon Donovan! Are you ready to put on your boots again?"
¡Hey @landondonovan! ¿Estás listo para volverte a poner los tachones?— Jesus Martinez M. (@jmartinez_leon) January 13, 2018
Pachuca defender Omar Gonzalez, Donovan's former teammate with the Galaxy and U.S. national team, responded to Friday's developments with a tweet of his own: "Welcome to Liga MX, Landon Donovan! I'm excited to face you in the Tuzos vs. Leon rivalry. Much success, friend, but go Tuzos! Big hug and I'll see you soon."
Bienvenido a @LIGABancomerMX @landondonovan ! Estoy emocionado enfrentarte en el clásico @Tuzos vs. @clubleonfc . Mucho éxito amigo, pero arriba los Tuzos!!! Abrazo fuerte y te veo muy pronto https://t.co/hZ8Bsgmzyl— Omar Gonzalez (@Omar4Gonzalez) January 13, 2018
Donovan's return comes as a shock, not only because he has played just 455 professional minutes in the last three years but also because he seemed to be enjoying life off the field. Donovan has done broadcast work with Fox Sports, is part of the Swansea City ownership group, participated in an effort to bring an MLS team to San Diego and has spoken about enjoying fatherhood.
"I can't even chase my son around my house, so, I don't think so," he told Yahoo Sports of a potential comeback in March 2017. "Yeah, I'm done. I'm done. No more playing for me."
Donovan resumes a career that saw him become one of the most decorated players in U.S. national team history, earning 157 caps and a record-tying 57 goals. A six-time MLS Cup champion, Donovan became the league's all-time leader with 145 goals and 136 assists — prompting MLS to name its MVP award in his honor shortly after his initial retirement in December 2014.
Where Donovan will fit into Gustavo "Chavo" Diaz's side remains to be seen. The Uruguayan manager has maintained a veteran attacking group in his starting XI since taking over during the previous season and leading Leon into the payoffs.
Elias Hernandez and Andres Andrade play on the wings, with Luis Montes in the middle and Mauro Boselli up top. The group produced big dividends in the Apertura, with Boselli's 11 goals tying him atop the league lead. Hernandez had six goals and seven assists while Montes chipped in with four assists.
Donovan reportedly will be presented to fans at the Camp Nou at halftime of Saturday's match against Toluca.